it's okay to play with your food

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Happy Birthday kitchenplay!

It was a year ago today that I wrote my first blog post on kitchenplay. It was a spotlight on the emotional struggle faced by one woman as she had to make a choice: Thin Mints or brussels sprouts?

66 posts later, kitchenplay is still going strong. It has gotten noticed by Foobooz, Foodaphilia and Meal Ticket. It has its own group on Facebook. It's starting to be read by people outside of my immediate friends and family! It has definitely made me a more adventurous, creative cook and shown me just how central of a role food plays in the way I live and interact with people.

I hope you continue reading and contributing to kitchenplay!

Want kitchenplay to write about something specific in the coming year? Or do you have a suggestion for something I should try out? Let me know and I'm sure we can make something happen.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cupcakes and Cocktails, Part 2

Last week, Gabe had another, less formal, cocktail party. The association of cupcakes with cocktails has now been thoroughly solidified in my head. As such, I decided to make another batch for the party.

For some reason, I had molasses on the brain. So I searched epicurious for a molasses icing recipe. They had one paired with a carrot cupcake. I'm generally not a huge carrot cake fan (more of a chocolate woman on all dessert fronts), but the idea of carrots and molasses sounded really good.

Looking at the recipe though, I felt it needed two things: fresh ginger and some kind of garnish. I ended up putting the two together, by cooking up sliced carrots in sugar and ginger as a garnish.

Carrot Cupcakes with Molasses Cream Cheese Icing from

For cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I upped this to two tsps.)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I switched this out for two tsps. of ground ginger)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups finely shredded carrots (about 4)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped fine, toasted lightly, and cooled
(1 tablespoon of fresh ginger)
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted lightly and cooled

For icing
1/2 cup (about 4 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. and line twelve 1/2-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
In a bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. In another bowl whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla and with a wooden spoon beat in flour mixture until combined well. Add carrots, walnuts, and coconut, (AND fresh ginger!) stirring until just combined. Fill muffin tins two thirds full with batter (there will be enough batter remaining to make 4 more cupcakes) and bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Turn cupcakes out onto a rack and cool completely. Muffin tins may be used again immediately for second cupcake batch. Cupcakes may be made 2 days ahead and kept in airtight containers. (from kp: I actually yielded 20 cupcakes total.)

Make icing: In a bowl beat together icing ingredients until fluffy.

Icing may be made 2 days ahead and chilled in an airtight container. Soften icing at room temperature to spreading consistency. Spread icing on cupcakes.

from kp: Garnish with gingered carrots.

Gingered Carrots from kitchenplay

Using a vegetable peeler, slice off slivers from one carrot into a saucepan of water, sugar and fresh ginger. (I used maybe 2 cups water, half a cup of sugar and a good tsp. or so of ginger.)

On medium heat, bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. The idea is to get the carrots to a point where they are soft and pliable, not fully caramelized from the sugars.

Cocktail pairing: a Sidecar, perhaps? Brandy, cointreau, lemon juice.

Newbold Update

  • For those of you following the opening of BREW, here is what coffee master Aaron Ultimo said in the kitchenplay comments section last Friday…

    “We're trying very hard to work with Michael Dolich (a.k.a. "Challahman") over at Four Worlds Bakery. If you haven't yet heard of him, you will. No one comes close to what he's doing in the city. His croissants and chocolate babka are to die for...”

    (In response to my question about who was doing their baking)

  • Philly Weekly talks about a Caribbean food truck somewhere on West Passyunk, but doesn’t give an exact address. Anyone know the details?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cupcakes and Cocktails Part 1

Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

My friend Gabe is a mixologist... a scientist of sorts, but his beakers are martini glasses and his chemical solutions are tasty liquors. He hosts regular martini parties at his home and his selection of alcohol is impressive. The question is not, "Do you want a vodka or gin martini?" Rather, he asks, "What type of gin do you prefer? Hendricks, Tanqueray, Bluecoat, organic, etc..." Not to mention the myriad specialty liqueurs he keeps on hand: creme de violette, ginger, the list continues.

And he makes his own maraschino cherries.

So for his last official cocktail party, I decided I would bring along something to show my gratitude for his amazing hospitality. I had just found the now defunct blog, Cupcake Bakeshop. While Chockylit is no longer posting new recipes, she has kept her archives online. It was there that I found a recipe for Old Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes and another one for Salted Caramel Frosting.

Salted caramel is the new balsamic vinegar. Once seen as an exotic culinary item, it can now be found amidst the offerings at Wal-Mart or Starbucks, firmly grounded in mainstream consumption (or so says the New York Times.).

Salt added to most things, and certainly sweet things, adds an extra dimension of flavor. When added well, it doesn't just add saltyness, but can bring out some of the essential aspects of the dish. One of these days I will learn just how it manages to accomplish that. In the meantime, I'm just going to eat a lot of it.

Thanks Eleanor for being such a great photographer!

Mixing the cream with the hot sugar to make

Modeling my cupcake apron

Salted caramel pre-frosting

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes from

24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup cocoa powdered

2 tablespoons instant espresso powder (from kp: I omitted this)

1-1/2 cups milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition.

3. Measure the flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and espresso powder into a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine.

4. Measure the milk and vanilla into a measuring thing.

5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.

6. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 3/4’s full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Salted Caramel from
from kp: The frosting recipe calls for one cup of caramel. I actually had to make two batches of the caramel to get that amount.

4 tablespoons water

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, kosher or sea

1. Combine the water, sugar, and the corn syrup in a deep saucepan and cook over medium heat.

2. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the sugar is incorporated.

3. Cover the saucepan and let it cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.

4. After 3 minutes, remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.

5. Do not stir from this point on, but it is important to carefully shake the pan so that one area of the caramel doesn’t burn.

6. Continue to cook until the caramel turns an even amber color then remove from the heat and let stand for about 30 seconds.

7. *** This is the dangerous part *** Pour the heavy cream into the mixture. Wear oven mitts, stand away from the pan, and be careful. The mixture will bubble up significantly.

8. Stir the mixture, again being careful. Add the butter, lemon juice, and salt. Stir until combined.

9. Measure 1 cup into a Pyrex measuring cup. Stirring occasionally, allow to cool until thick like molasses and warm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Note: There was a small bit of extra caramel that I poured onto a small plate that I covered in aluminum foil and greased with vegetable oil. I transferred the plate to the freezer for about 30 minutes. I chopped the caramel quickly into squares (its starts to get soft) and topped each cupcake with a square.

Salted Caramel Frosting from
from kp: I only used 2 cups of powdered sugar. That changed the consistency, I'm sure, but it was definitely sweet enough. I think 5-6 cups would be serious overkill.

2 sticks butter

8 ounces or 1 package of Philly cream cheese

5 to 6 cups powdered sugar

1 cup salted caramel

1. Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours.

2. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy.

3. Sift 3 cups of powdered sugar into the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.

4. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and beat to combine.

5. Sift 2-3 cups of powder sugar, in 1 cup increments and beating between each, until you arrive at the thickness and sweetness you desire. I used 6 cups. The frosting wasn’t super thick, but it was starting to get pretty sweet.


1. Frost cooled cupcakes with a generous amount of frosting.

2. Sprinkle each cupcake with sea or kosher salt. I ground some rock sea salt onto each.

3. Top with a caramel candy, homemade or otherwise.

from kp: I saved some of the caramel and put it in the freezer to harden, per Chockylit's suggestion. It didn't get quite hard enough, but I was able to decorate the cupcakes with a small spoonful of the soft caramel.

And as a pairing with this cupcake, might I suggest the following cocktail: Aviation.

gin, crème de violette, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice
garnished with a maraschino cherry and lemon rind

Friday, January 23, 2009


Thank God Meal Ticket is following the opening of BREW so closely. They just posted a link to Aaron Ultimo's blog. Ultimo and wife Elizabeth are the owners of the coffee part of BREW, what they refer to as Ultimo Coffee. (The beer part of the business is owned by Longacre; the coffee part by the Ultimos... together, they form BREW.) Aaron has photos documenting the build-out AND showing off pretty, shiny espresso machines and pastry cases.

I left a comment expressing my interest in checking out the space myself and posting about it. Wouldn't that be cool?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rustic Potato Soup

Despite my lack of a blender or even a potato masher, I was determined to make a creamy potato soup last night. It would be chunky... no, not chunky... RUSTIC. Photos will be uploaded tonight.

Rustic Potato Soup
Olive oil
1 small onion, sliced into think chunks
About 2 pounds of potatoes, peeled and diced
2-3 carrots, sliced into half moons
Water, ideally filtered
Heavy (or light) cream
Salt and pepper

Without a Blender...
In a soup pot, saute half of the onion in the olive oil till golden. Add potatoes and carrots and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer till the potatoes and carrots are tender. Pick out the onion slices. Transfer potatoes and carrots to a pot in small batches, adding some of the water from the pot and some of the heavy cream. Mash with a potato masher OR the back of a plastic spoon. Mash away and add more liquid till you reach the desired consistency. I used all of the "broth" and maybe 1/2 cup of cream. It was harder to mash up the carrots, so it was basically a slightly chunky potato base with carrots. Season with lots of salt and pepper.

I also fried up the remaining onion half and used that as garnish.

If you are some sort of king or rich noble person and actually own a blender (God, I'm jealous of you...), then you can make the same soup and it's slightly easier.

Blender Directions
In a soup pot, saute the onion in the olive oil till golden. Add potatoes and carrots and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then let simmer till the potatoes and carrots are tender. Transfer vegetables to a blender in small batches, adding some of the water from the pot and some of the heavy cream. Blend till smooth, adding more liquid till you reach the desired consistency. Season with lots of salt and pepper. Fry the remaining onion in olive oil and use as a garnish.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bean Freeze

So the two dishes that did make it into the freezer from last week's weekend cooking bonanza were a black bean soup and pinto bean burritos. I just had my first burrito for lunch and it turned out really well. The recipe is from Martha Stewart's website, where you can find a whole slideshow of freezer-friendly recipes.

Disclaimer: I am not a Martha fan. I don't like her smug attitude or her absurd recipe expectations. But she is a good place to get ideas and once in a while she comes through with a solid, realistic recipe (one in which you aren't slaughtering your own cow for beef enchiladas, for instance). Recipe and a link to her site below.

The black bean soup was a variation on my Whiskey Black Bean Soup, since I didn't have any whiskey. But I made sure to include chipotles in adobo to compensate for the loss. I also omitted the fresh bell peppers. Follow the link above to get to the recipe.

They should both last about three months.

Bean Burritos
from Martha

from kp: I opted for brown rice, used hot sauce instead of the jalepeno, and omitted the scallions (lazyness? cheapness?). I wrapped each one individually in plastic wrap (though I'm thinking an extra layer of foil wouldn't be a bad idea.) When heating them up today for lunch, I defrosted them in the microwave for 5 minutes and then stuck them in the toaster over for another 10 minutes or so.

  • 3/4 cup rice (brown or white)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno chile, chopped (ribs and seeds removed, for less heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bag frozen corn kernels, (10 ounces)
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 8 burrito-size flour tortillas, 10 inches each
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Salsa and sour cream, optional


  1. Cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  3. Add beans and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add corn; cook to heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in scallions.
  4. Heat tortillas according to package instructions; fill with rice, bean mixture, and cheese.
  5. Assemble: Mound 1/4 cup rice, 3/4 cup bean mixture, and 1/4 cup cheese on one side of tortilla. Fold, and hold in sides. Starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos.
  6. Serve immediately, with salsa and sour cream, if using, or wrap individually in plastic and freeze up to 3 months.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Obama Day!

What better way to celebrate the inauguration than with a good beer? I haven't tried it yet, but the Inauguration Ale 2009 beer by Ommegang Brewery is being served at Tria. It's described as a Porter with kriek and chocolate flavors. Something sexy and deep and dark in complexion... sound like anyone we know?

Thanks for the tip, Meal Ticket.

Update: Sarah, Daniel and I went to Tria and tried the Inauguration Ale. It was really good... a dark porter but not too heavy, with a touch of sour cherry. We could have kept drinking it, but their limited supply meant only one glass per customer.

"One person, one vote, one person, one obamagang."

If I can figure out how to upload pics from my cell, I'll share a blurry, grayish photo of the beer with you all. I'm sure you're on the edge of your seats!

kitchenplay is on Facebook!

I just created a Facebook group for kitchenplay. Expect regular messages with recipes. I also want to try to use the discussion board and events to share food-related information.

Use the link above or do a search for kitchenplay and you'll find me there!

Monday, January 19, 2009

NYT Loves Philly Beer

In the most recent display of the New York Time's love affair with Philadelphia, Betsy Andrews highlights our awesome beer scene. PBC, Yards and Dock Street all get shout-outs, either in the article or the accompanying slide show.

While the article brings up how Philly bars are fostering local beer manufacturing, it fails to mention the strength of our accompanying bar food scene. Yeah, yeah, I know it was an article about beer, but I think that the strength of our bar food (awesome burgers, mac & cheese's, even interesting salads) is something else that sets our drinking scene apart from that of other cities.

For instance, my afternoon of watching the Eagles game yesterday at the South Philly Tap Room included good local beer and a really great bacon cheeseburger. My out-of-town guests fell in love with their baby spinach salads, covered with candied walnuts, pomegranate seeds and a chunky blue cheese.

I guess NYT just needs to write another article.

BREW Update

From the latest Feeding Frenzy in City Paper (January 14, 2009)

"Look for this combination beer and coffee shop, from South Philly Taproom's John Longacre, to open in February. The shop, at 15th and Mifflin, will feature a 500- to 600-bottle mix-a-sixable selection on the beer end. As far as the beans go, Aaron Ultimo, formerly of D.C.'s well-regarded Murky Coffee, will handle all java, with plans for educational coffee classes and cuppings."

What kind of beer do you want to see? I want to know who's doing their food, baked goods specifically...

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cheddar and Caramelized Onion Pierogies

I'm Polish and Lebanese-Armenian. I could also include Irish and Scottish, but I've never felt particularly influenced by either of those ethnicities, in part (I think) because the food of that region never made it into my home growing up. I ate a lot of tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves, monte, kielbasas, pierogies.... no haggis.

I still love pierogies. But as good as potato and cheese wrapped in dough is, pierogies were always fairly unexciting. Naturally, once you smother them in sour cream and fried onions they're awesome, but let's be honest... at its core, the pierogie is a bland food item.

The recipe below is basically four things: a good dough from epicurious, mashed potatoes, a sharp and flavorful cheese and a strong vegetable component. While I used cheddar and onions, I think swiss cheese and sauteed minced mushrooms could be another good combination. Maybe sharp provolone and a garlicky spinach or broccoli rabe? Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Cheddar and Caramelized Onion Pierogies
Pierogie Dough
Olive oil
1 onion, sliced into thin half-moons
Some sugar
4 potatoes
A lot of butter
Some heavy (or light) cream
As much sour cream as you like
A lot of extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 8 oz.)
Salt and pepper

1) Make dough according to the recipe (link above). The final consistency is supposed to be elastic, but I found it too stretchy to work with the first day. So I chilled it over night and that made a big difference.

1) Start making the caramelized onions first. Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add onions and about 2 tbls. sugar. I cooked mine on low heat for about an hour till they were golden yellow and very pliable, stirring occassionally and keeping the lid on.

2) Make mashed potatoes however you like them. I peeled and diced my potatoes before boiling to expedite things. I added about 4 tbls. butter, 3 tbls. sour cream and as much cream as produced my desired consistency. I kept them on the less creamy side to produce a make pierogie assembly easier.

3) Grate the cheese directly into the mashed potatoes. I used about a full block of cheese.

4) Add caramelized onions. Mix well.

I made the filling on the same day as the dough and also let it chill over night.

1) Invite over at least one friend to help you. I chose Sarah!

2) Bring dough and filling to room temperature (if previously chilled). Have a glass of water handy.

3) Roll out dough on a well-floured surface. The dough is still sticky enough that re-flouring throughout the process is super helpful.

4) Cut out rounds in the dough. I used the rim of a drinking glass with a diameter of 2 1/2 inches.

5) With a round of dough in the palm of your hand, put 1 tsp. or so of filling the middle.

6) Using your finger, wet the perimeter of the dough with water. Don't use too much water or it will make the dough soggy and hard to work with. Seriously, one finger is all you need. ONE.

7) Start closing the pierogie by gently folding the dough in half and pinching the dough together, starting on one side and working your way to the other. Stretch out the dough gently to make the sides meet.

8) Pinch across the rim to make sure its shut.

Ok, so after about my fifth pierogie, three of which had little holes in them or some such nonsense, I said something like, "This is bullshit. I'm never making pierogies again. I can just buy them"

But then, Sarah and I started to get the hang of it. These little potato cheese pouches actually started to look like real pierogies.

When I would reroll the dough scraps, the dough got really dense and lost some of its elasticity. I tried re-chilling it, but there wasn't enough time to chill it properly. So I just started cutting out larger rounds which would need less elasticity to close and that helped.

By the time Sarah and I blanched and pan-fried the pierogies till they were crispy and brown, I was completely on board with this whole "making your own pierogies" thing*. The filling was definitely more tasty than the everyday pierogie and once we got the hang of it, actually making them wasn't that hard or time consuming. Maybe I would invite over two people next time? Just to make things move along...

Sarah brought over salad fixings- greens, dried cranberries, blue cheese, candied pecans and cilantro. While a bit of sour cream was a welcome garnish to the pierogies, I actually found the simple red wine vinegar dressing an even better compliment to the rich pierogies.

* Remember to strain the pierogies before putting them in the hot oil for pan frying.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Apple Almond Granola

Since I happen to be eating some now, I figured I would share the recipe for the Apple Almond Granola* I made this weekend. It's a variation on the Cranberry-Almond Oat cereal recipe from the Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook. If you are Philly phoodie, you know Metropolitan Bakery. I am not a bread person, and even I like their breads. And it's not just the food. The stores have a rustic Parisian feel that is so nice to step into. Exiting with a delicious pastry is a bonus.

The recipe is perfect for kitchenplay because of how versatile it is. It calls for sliced almonds, cranberries, cinnamon and ground cloves. But you can sub in any nuts, spices and dried fruit you prefer. I also replace the canola oil with an almond oil, which I like a lot.

Variations on Metropolitan Bakery's Cranberry- Almond Oat Cereal

3/4 cup oil (MBC suggests canola; I've used almond oil both times)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (since I'm using almond oil, I omit this)
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
6 to 12 oz. nuts (almonds, walnuts, whatever you like)
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup dry milk powder (I've never incorporated this... just didn't get around to buying it)
1-2 tsp. spices (cinnamon, ginger, fresh nutmeg, ground cloves, cardamom, etc.)
1 cup dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, raisins, dates, chopped up apple slices...)

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a medium saucepan, stir together oil, honey and maple syrup. Place over low heat and bring just to a simmer. (Do not boil.) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla (and almond, if using) extracts. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, wheat germ, (milk powder), and spices. Pour the warm honey mixture over the top, then toss to coat the nuts and grains. Divide the nut and grain mixture onto 2 nonstick baking trays. Spread each into a thin layer.

3. Bake the cereal 20 minutes; remove the pans from the oven and stir. Spread the cereal again and bake 15 minutes more or until light golden. Cool the cereal completely on the pans so it becomes crisp. Stir in the dried fruit. Store in an airtight container.

I actually only have one baking sheet (yeah, but i have a panini press and Linzer cookie cutters. Go figure?). And I didn't feel like going through the process twice. So I spread all of the cereal onto the one sheet. It took longer to cook through and I stirred it up 2 or 3 times, but it still worked. Also, this last time, I didn't have enough honey or maple syrup, so I added a bit of brown sugar to the dry mix.

* Granola just sounds so much more appealing than cereal.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

I must like cooking...

Every now and then I get this itch to cook, a tickle in my brain and fingertips that verges on mild anxiety. It usually follows a drought of home cooking and consists of rabidly looking up recipes, making shopping lists, and strategizing on my way to work.

This past Saturday was supposed to bring snow. In anticipation, I planned a day of staying in and cooking, largely spurned on by the high percentage of canned soups I'd been consuming.

My plan was to cook multiple dishes that I would then freeze- a boon to my health and my finances. I invited friends over to hang out and taste test as needed, a sort of culinary open house.

The to-do list: pinto bean burritos, Whiskey Black Bean soup, pierogies, mac & cheese, orange shortbread and cereal. The burritos came from Martha Stewart (she's a bitch, but knows her stuff); the soup is from kitchenplay; the pierogies a combination of epicurious, Daniel and kitchenplay; the mac & cheese was going to be made up (but I knew I wanted to incorporate my guilty pleasure cheese, Laughing Cow); the shortbread and cereal were adapted from epicurious and the Metropolitan Bakery Cookbook, respectively.

A few things I found helpful over the course of the weekend...
  • start with a CLEAN kitchen

  • accept the fact that the kitchen will then proceed to get VERY messy

  • order take-out for dinner so you don't OD on the food you are making for future consumption. (Not surprisingly, we got Thai food.)

  • invite friends... they sample things, entertain you, and even offer a hand (which for assembling pierogies is a MUST! the more the process resembles an assembly line, the better.)

  • Make sure you have good Tupperware and enough saran wrap for freezer storage. I found these nice Ziploc containers for my soup and also used former take-out containers (right).

Ever the theoretical over-achiever, I had envisioned accomplishing my food goals by the end of the day Saturday, when the impending snow would keep me housebound anyway. The snow didn't happen and I didn't get everything done, but was able to finish up on Sunday (with the exception of the mac & cheese, but eh... a girl's gotta get some sleep.)

Speaking of which, I'm heading to bed now but will post the recipes themselves later this week. Oh, and not everything actually made it into the freezer. As of tonight (Tuesday), the shortbread is kicked, the pierogies demolished, one soup is down and I'm still working my way through the left over burrito and pierogie filling.

Is it the cooking I like so much... or the eating?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Wallet Watch: PhillyCarShare Discounts

I recently posted a comment on Foobooz about the PhillyCarShare discount at Apamate and realized I should share it with all of you too!

If you are a member of PhillyCarShare, that means you also have a "key to the city," entitling you to various discounts at shops, restaurants, etc. around town.

That includes 10% off your bill at a great tapas place on South Street, Apamate, and all three Pumpkins, the restaurant, cafe and market. Check out the rest of their list through the link above!

Update: Foobooz liked the comment enough to write a post on the Key to the City discounts! Foobooz also picked up on kitchenplay's review of Plan-Eat-Thai today and gave us a shout-out in their Around the Web section. Thanks Foobooz!

BSD... Officially Dead (Almost)

According to Michael Klein... "Starr's Broad Street Diner deal, mired in environmental issues, seems to be dead."


Can this place be redeemed? What are these environmental issues anyway? It's a good location, comes with parking, has a community that cares about the neighborhood....

Could Mark Bee of Silk City swoop in and save the day? Should the place be razed completely and built up as something else entirely? And if so, what?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Crush of the Month: Rachel Maddow

What can't Rachel Maddow do?

Rhodes Scholar, AIDS activist, Air America show host, MSNBC superstar show host... smart, funny, attractive and just plain adorable... AND she loves making classic cocktails!

How can I get her to a SPEC meeting??? Preferably as my date...???

Last week, NY Magazine taped Maddow showing off her mad(dow) skillz* while making a Jack Rose cocktail. Jack Rose is a mix of Apple Jack Brandy or Calvados, grenadine and lime juice. She talks about shaking it till "it's too cold to hold" while wearing those adorugly glasses... swoon!!!

Enjoy the link above.

* yeah, yeah, bad pun, I know...

More Newbold News

The Sad News

The Philly phood scene was abuzz in June with news that Stephen Starr had purchased the Broad Street Diner at Broad and Ellsworth. It was definitely a good sign for me as I looked into buying a house south of Washington and close to Broad. Since then, rumors have been swirling as to what the concept would be... another Continental? Something fun and Greek? Upscale Mexican?

Well, the latest rumor is that nothing will be moving into the old diner. Apparently the site has "environmental issues," a dealbreaker for Starr. And just yesterday, Michael Klein of the Inky revealed Starr's plans for the coming year: bringing back his Blue Angel to 7th and Chestnut and possibly making "fun and Greek" the concept of his Washington Square location. No word about the diner.

That said, nothing has been made official as far as I know. Maybe I'm a Positive Polly, but from reading these various blog postings about Starr, it appears he changes his mind a lot. I'm not giving up on BSD just yet...

The Good News

Another pro of my new neighborhood-to-be was word in July that the owner of the South Philly Tap Room, John Longacre, was planning a coffee shop and take-out beer joint for 15th and Mifflin, Bierista. While take-out beer is plentiful this side of Broad, coffee shops are not. And besides, this was going to be a mix-a-six kinda place, with the fancypants beer one expects at SPTR.

Well, after reading of the Starr fall-out yesterday, I was wondering if Bierista was awash too. After all, the economy isn't doing so well. Maybe you've heard...?

Just last night, word comes from Meal Ticket that Bierista is still in the works, but under the name BREW. Buildout should be completed within the next month, followed by the opening of the coffee shop while the liquor license application goes forward.

I feel slightly conflicted about patronizing a local coffee shop other than B2 at Passyunk and Dickinson, which I LOVE. But I want community business in Newbold to thrive, so I am super excited for BREW to open. If it's anything like the Tap Room (fun, comfortable, with special attention paid to good food and beverage), I think it's going to be a welcome addition.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Food-to-Do List (2009)

I don't really do New Year resolutions; we all know that few people truly stick to them and I don't like the idea that "something is wrong with me and I must fix it in the new year."

That said... I LOVE to-do lists!

So my food-to-do list for 2009 includes the following...
  • Jam

  • Pickle

  • Buy a candy thermometer

  • Don't break my new candy thermometer (third time's the charm???)

  • Compost

  • Start a garden patch behind my house

  • Buy Mark Bittman's new book, Food Matters

Care to share any of your 2009 food goals and wishes?

Thai in Newbold

Thai food isn't something that Philadelphia's restaurant scene does particularly well. Italian, French, pub fare, Indian, Mexican, Chinese... these are the more successfully represented cuisines in town. But a great Thai place opened just down the street from me: Plan-Eat-Thai.

The menu is made up of mostly Thai dishes, with some Chinese and a few random American items. My favorite is the Drunken Noodle: full of Thai basil flavor, topped with peppery slices of lean pork (not the pink, fatty pork that is often served in Asian restaurants). The Dry Chili Cashew Chicken is not dry at all, but served in a reddish brown sauce that is both sweet and spicy. I most recently had the Broccoli Stir Fry with Chicken and even that simple brown sauce was super tasty. Vegetables are always crisp and fresh. And while not an authentic Thai dish, their crab rangoon actually taste like crab, with a hint of curry giving both flavor and a yellow hue to the cream cheese inside. The Thai spring rolls are plump with layers of meat and vegetables.

The Pad Thai is solid, not the best I've ever had but better than most Pad Thai in town. And it does come with slices of fresh mango as a garnish- a nice touch. I think the serving sauces (such as those that came with the spring rolls and crab rangoon) could be more flavorful. They all seem to be a thinner version of duck sauce.

Like Hardena, the ambiance gives no hint to the amazing food inside. It is take-out only, with the bullet-proof glass so common in Asian restaurants and bodegas around here. Instead of a sign, the name of the restaurant is written in paint on the building's exterior. Twice. Just in case you don't see it at first.

Oh and everything is ridiculously cheap. Like dinner for two with an appetizer will run you between $18 and $20. Ridiculous.

1516 Tasker St. (at Hicks and Tasker)

Friday, January 2, 2009

RIP Brasserie Perrier

So even while the Philadelphia Inquirer is touting the "return of the French bistro" as a major 2008 food trend, one of the bistro trend setters in town has closed its doors. Georges Perrier's Brasserie Perrier shut down with little to no warning on New Year's Eve.

This saddens me a bit, and not because I was particularly enamoured by the food or the clientele. It leaves me wistful if only because BP was the location of one my most memorable dates, when my then-boyfriend surprised me on Valentine's Day with a prix-fixe lunch.

We were supposed to go to Penang in Chinatown, "our restaurant." If I had been paying more attention, maybe I would have noticed that something was up. While donning my Doc Marten boots and skirt combo (tres chic for a sophomore at Swarthmore College), the boyfriend insisted that I wear different shoes. Stubborn 19 year old me ignored him at first, but he was so intense about it, I relented, changing into a pair of ballet flats. Then he wanted to run some secret errand in Center City, meaning we got off the R3 at Suburban Station rather than Market East.

While walking down Walnut Street towards some unknown errand destination, he ushered me through a revolving door and into BP. I was totally confused (and honestly, a little disappointed. I really loved Penang!). But then we sat down for a romantic three course meal with wine. I don't remember every dish we had, but I still recall the lightly fried parsley that garnished my soup. I loved the crunchy, earthy, salty taste paired with the fragility of the delicate herb.

Since then, I've gone to BP for a few happy hours, never entirely satisfied with the experience but always slightly titillated about returning to the scene of my Valentine's Day surprise. It wasn't just a restaurant to me, but a monument to a particular moment in my life, when my first love surprised me with a meal he knew would make me happy. The relationship ended three years later but, at least until two days ago, BP was still around and made for a nice reminder of something that once was. So I'm sorry to see you go, Brasserie Perrier. Thanks for the memory.